How to Win the Yogurt Aisle

by Cheryl Sternman Rule
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How to Win the Yogurt Aisle

Like cereal in its day, yogurt has transformed the dairy aisle. Once relegated to a shelf or two, yogurt now comes in so many varieties the aisle has swollen to accommodate its popularity. And this is good news, both for those who embrace yogurt for health reasons and those who value its versatility.

Yogurt with fat is better for us — with less sugar than low-fat yogurt — and it’s friendlier to our waistlines and more flexible in cooking. The fact that it contains wide-ranging nutrients — protein, calcium, B vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc, as well as plentiful “good” bacteria — further incentivizes us to give yogurt the attention it deserves.

Here are four different factors that might influence your yogurt-buying decisions:

1. FAT

Until a few years ago, low-fat and nonfat yogurts reigned supreme in U.S. supermarkets. Fat-phobia among health professionals and consumers meant consumer demand for fuller-fat options was slim to none. Unfortunately, with fat off the label (and out of the cup), carbs filled the void. Those who reached for high-sugar — but fat-free — yogurts thinking they were making a diet-friendly choice were doing anything but.

Today, our understanding of dietary fat is more nuanced. Some fats (like transfats) have no place in a healthy diet. But the moderate saturated fat found in whole-milk yogurt is no longer demonized. Fat provides satiety — a feeling of fullness — and replacing fat with carbs does nothing to curb obesity.

2. MILK TYPES

In addition to fat, you can also choose the milk type beyond that which comes from the cow.

  • Sheep milk has more milk solids, so sheep yogurt has extra body even without straining.
  • Goat milk is more delicate, with a looser, runnier set.
  • Non-dairy options have expanded to include cultured cups based on milks from coconut, almond and, of course, soy.

READ MORE > HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHIER YOGURT


3. FLAVORS

Step aside, vanilla and strawberry. Today, look for Persian yogurts (like White Moustache of Red Hook, New York), in flavors like date, sour cherry and quince; Indian yogurts (like Prayani out of Hart, Michigan), in carrot with cumin and coriander or cucumber with mint and cilantro; and Icelandic yogurts (like Icelandic Provisions), which combines blueberry with bilberries, peach with cloudberries and strawberry with lingonberries — Nordic fruits you’d be hard-pressed to find in the produce aisle.

4. ORIGIN

By now we’re all aware of Greek yogurt, the thickened, strained yogurt whose whey has been drained. A greater concentration of milk solids with a higher proportion of protein is left behind. Icelandic skyr, which is also thick and dense, tends to be higher in protein as well.

Those who want to maximize their calcium, take note: much of the calcium in yogurt resides in the whey. Toss the whey and you toss a good deal of calcium.

Perhaps consider Bulgarian yogurt (lactobacillus Bulgaricus, one of the key bacteria in yogurt, is named for that country) or yogurt marketed as “European-style.” These varieties tend to be less thick than Greek because the whey remains inside. (Any unstrained yogurt, unless artificially thickened, should retain its whey.)

Then there’s Australian yogurt. Creamy and luscious, this indulgent style is popular for dessert, though those looking to it as a diet-friendly choice should pay close attention to the sugar grams, which can soar depending on the flavor and brand.


READ MORE > THE TRUTH ABOUT GREEK YOGURT


With so many yogurt options available, it’s easier than ever to find one you love that’s truly healthful. With sugar-bomb yogurt so common, read labels closely — especially if you’re watching your waistline. Or do like I do: Stick with a high-quality, whole-milk plain yogurt. Add any sweetener, as well as fresh fruit, herbs, vegetables, nuts and more at home.

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  • James

    I’ve looked over the yogurt labels at my local grocery just recently wanting to eat more yogurt and allI the full fat varieties had nearly double the sugar even though I wasn’t including any flavored varieties. How can you say that full fat is less sugar? I’m honestly very confused because I would much rather easy the full fat, but really don’t want that huge amount of sugar.

    • Lisa Burkhart McConnaughay

      She’s talking about added sugars-look at the ingredient label as well as the nutrition label. Milk products have natural sugars so that can be in the total sugar count and she’s suggesting plain yogurt and flavor yourself.

      • James

        Sugar is sugar here though. We’re not looking at a difference between simple or complex carbs. Why would I eat more natural sugar just to have the full fat, when there are no sugar added, much lower sugar far free varieties?

  • snowmentality

    Whole milk plain unsweetened is the way to go! You can add your own fruit to taste (or not). I also recently made my own yogurt for the first time — it’s much easier than I’d thought!

  • Angela Harris

    “Unfortunately, with fat off the label (and out of the cup), carbs filled the void. Those who reached for high-sugar — but fat-free — yogurts thinking they were making a diet-friendly choice were doing anything but.”

    This is misleading. There are plenty of low- or non-fat yogurts, even Greek yogurt, out there with no added sugars.

  • Bethany Cote Woodsome

    Buying yogurt is my biggest struggle when grocery shopping. I have a heck of a time finding anything other than non-fat or low-fat yogurt. Trying to buy whole-fat yogurt is sometimes like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I can generally only find one brand and can only get it at one or two stores. I’m looking forward to the day when the non-low-fat craze has run it’s course and it’s not mission-nearly-impossible to buy nutritious, delicious, fattening yogurt.

  • Robert Geer

    This was a bad read imo. The only thing I was looking for I guess was what to get and now I’m lost. What was said compared to what I went shopping and seen was a mess went with Fage and I have to add my own nuts and stuff cause it’s awful.

  • JMM

    Or just make your own Greek yogurt at home. It’s easy, you know exactly what’s in it, and you control the flavor by deciding what (and how much) to mix into it (plain, fruit, honey, etc.).

    You will need a small cup of plain yogurt as a “starter” (I used Siggi’s whole milk Icelandic Skyr) but once you make your own yogurt, you just reserve a few tablespoons of it to use as “starter” in your next batch. You’ll never need to purchase pre-packaged yogurt ever again.